Home » Jazz Articles » Marvin Blague: Epistrophal Astronomy: The Hidden Code of Theloniou...


Album Review

Marvin Blague: Epistrophal Astronomy: The Hidden Code of Thelonious Monk


Sign in to view read count
Marvin Blague: Epistrophal Astronomy: The Hidden Code of Thelonious Monk
If you've ever wondered what planet Thelonious Monk came from, you are not alone. According to Marvin Blague, you're not wrong to wonder either. Like most jazz listeners, he was not sure what to make of Monk's clunky-sounding playing style on first listen. But where many of us gradually come to enjoy how the pianist used harmonies in his own quirky way, this unassuming undergraduate student heard a deeper pattern. When a streaming playlist happened to turn up the weirdly metered "Brilliant Corners" one night, Blague—a dual music and math major who happened to be searching for a term-paper topic at that moment—became transfixed trying to count his way through the piece and subsequently began binging more Monk for a solid four hours.

By the end of the night he was convinced there was a subtle number code in Monk's odd structures, although his roommates reportedly dismissed it as "just that stoner ditching his turn to do the damn dishes again." Blague's dissection of bebop chordings and note intervals did result in a term paper that's remained legendary among the school's faculty ever since. Not only that, he also concluded that Monk's musical language actually hides some kind of cosmic message, bundled as a mathematical challenge for humanity to decode. His liner notes elaborate, "Come on, what human being has Sphere for a middle name anyway?"

Or so the story goes. Whatever the truth, the result is.... truly something to behold, if you dare. The bafflingly one-of-a-kind Epistrophal Astronomy is Blague's answer in musical code. Here he builds a vast ear-bending collage with some of the weirdest instruments ever designed, from theremin to Synclavier to Continuum keypad to electronic reeds, stacking mind-bending chords and harmonies in ways nature clearly never intended. There may even be a piano in there underneath the electronics, but it would take exceptional ears or sonic analysis to tell for sure. There are a couple passages that vaguely groove with a little stride or swing, but good luck trying to remember how they sounded by the time these 68 minutes of noise are over. By comparison, this makes Stockhausen sound as smooth as Muzak.

It remains unclear what Blague's return message to the cosmos is actually meant to be. He claims that it would be impossible to explain, in the same way it's impossible to explain why "Epistrophy" doesn't feel half as awkward as it should, which, fair point. Are you a fan of mathematically tricky music makers such as Nik Bärtsch or Stephan Thelen? Perhaps already inured to the bizarre drones of Pierre Schaeffer or Sunn O)))? It doesn't matter—you still probably won't have any clue what you're hearing.

Track Listing

Cosmonaut; Ba-Lack Blazars Ba-Lasers Make; It's 'Lonious Out in Space; Criss-Cross-Cosmos; I. Meditation; II. Counter Rotation; III. Elongation; Twilight with Bessie; Perihelion.


Marvin Blague: keyboards.

Additional Instrumentation

Marvin Blague: synthesizers, triode vacuum tube, theremin, glass harmonica, Minimoog, Mellotron, tape loops, EWI, piano (possibly).

Album information

Title: Epistrophal Astronomy: The Hidden Code of Thelonious Monk | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: April First Records

Gotcha! April Fools!

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.




Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.